How to Store Home Brew Beer

Beer has been home brewed and enjoyed for centuries since 800 BC. It was not until the 14th century that beer was mass produced for public consumption. The addition of hops is also relatively new to beer making. Prior to hops, various types of yeasts were utilized to achieve the desired type of beer. Home hobbyists brew their own recipes for cost effectiveness or to create unique beers. Once the recipe is made numerous storing techniques can be implemented.

If the beer is not immediately going to be consumed it must be stored. Shelf life averages between 4 and 6 months unless the alcohol content is higher than 7%, very little hops are used and the beer is made with yeast. Beer must be stored in clean, dry, dark areas where the temperature will remain between 45-55 degrees F. Darker brews such as stouts and porters, traditionally served warmer, can be stored at temperatures of up to 60 degrees F. Heat will destroy the proteins and affect the flavor. Light, especially sunlight and fluorescent light will cause the beer to get a skunky taste. Bottles should be removed from storage on a first in first out basis.

Once the recipe is complete it can be stored in the carboy with the use of special shields or demi johns. These devices completely cover the carboy and prevent light from spoiling the beer. The carboys can be capped and placed in a temperature appropriate climate.

To bottle the brew, sterilized bottles, caps and a hose will easily dispense the brew from the carboy into the bottles using siphoning. The hose is place into the bottom of the bottle and the other end into the carboy. Bottles are filled up to about an 1” from the top and quickly capped. Capped bottles should be stored upright and corked bottles should be stored on their sides. An upright bottle allows the yeast to settle to the bottom. After bottling, the beer continues the fermentation and carbonation processes for about 2 weeks before it can be consumed.

Some enthusiasts use food coolers in their basement to provide a clean, dark and temperature appropriate environment to store beer bottles. The cooler also keeps the bottles from breakage. Second hand refrigerators are also an option. Beer can also be stored in pressure barrels or kegs. By using pressure barrels individuals can store, dispense and carbonate the brew. As these are not well insulated they are not advised unless climate can be controlled.

Stainless steel kegs can be bought used and come in sizes that range from 5L to 5 gallons with the larger being the most popular. Conventional soda kegs usually have 3 valves for inlet, outlet and pressure release. The kegs and all necessary equipment is sterilized using a commercial rinse-free solution. Some brewers prefer this method as they can filter the brew while filling the keg and others choose to brew and ferment right in the keg. The filler hose is put into the bottom of the keg to prevent aeration. Beer is siphoned into the kegs and the lid is applied. Any remaining air is forced out and CO2 is injected. The brew can be stored, dispensed or recarbonated in these containers. Kegs should be stored in the same temperate climates as bottles or pressure barrels.

Unique and different storing options include old fashioned wooden beer barrels complete with bungs, spigots and stands. The recipe can be brewed and stored in the same container and also add a bit of nostalgia. Barrels range in size from 1L to over 5 gallons. The Europeans transport beer in small brown glass jugs called growlers that are complete with plastic twist off caps or clamp down versions. Growlers are gaining popularity in the US and come in 64 oz sizes but manufacturers are hoping to introduce a smaller 32 oz. version.